National highways across the country will be brought under a toll collection scheme in phases.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said this at a meeting of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council on Tuesday while giving approval to the Dhaka–Sylhet Corridor Road Development Project under South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation.
After the meeting, Planning Minister MA Mannan briefed the media in detail.
The planning minister said toll would be collected for the use of all major highways in the country, including Dhaka-Sylhet, Dhaka-Chattogram and Dhaka-North Bengal, as per the Prime Minister's directive.
A portion of the toll will be deposited in the government fund while a maintenance fund will be formed with the rest of the money for the maintenance of all roads in the country.
The minister observed that influential people often did not pay toll though they had the ability. "We have to come out of this culture," he added.
The 210-kilometre Dhaka-Sylhet corridor road project will cost Tk16,918crore. Under the project, the Dhaka-Sylhet highway will be upgraded to four lanes and two separate lanes will be kept for slow-moving vehicles.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is lending Tk13,244 crore for the development of this road.
The government is upgrading the Dhaka-Sylhet highway to four lanes to build a direct road infrastructure to boost South Asia Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation comprising six countries, including India and Bangladesh, according to the project document.
The planning minister maintained that the government stressed increasing connectivity with the eastern countries, and for this reason, the Dhaka-Sylhet highway was very important in establishing connections with different countries, including Myanmar, India and China.
According to the project proposal, the country's road transport network will play an important role in the overall economic development of the country, inclusive of the Asian Highway Network, BIMSTEC Corridor, SAARC Corridor and connectivity with the regional road network.
Each of the 210-kilometre Dhaka-Sylhet road will cost more than Tk80 crore.
The cost of the ongoing 48.50-kilometre Jhenaidah-Jashore highway upgradation to four lanes has been estimated at about Tk4,188crore. Under the project, per kilometre road construction cost is more than Tk86 crore.
However, the project had an additional cost of around Tk818 crore for acquisition of 151 hectares of land and rehabilitation.
The ongoing Sylhet-Tamabil four-lane road is costing Tk64 crore per kilometre.
On the other hand, per kilometre cost of the Dhaka-Chattogram highway upgradation to four lanes was Tk21 while that of the Mymensingh-Joydevpur highway was also Tk21 crore.
The construction of a four-lane road from Hatikumrul to Rangpur cost Tk55 crore per kilometre while the Jatrabari-Kachpur road upgradation to eight lanes from four lanes cost Tk22 crore per kilometre.
"Now we pay three times the price for land acquisition," the planning minister said, adding that the premier had instructed that quality could not be compromised while reducing expenditure.
A total of 9 projects worth Tk24,127crore were approved at the Ecnec meeting, including the Dhaka-Sylhet road development project.
Of them, a revised project for the construction of the first terminal of Payra Port has also been approved.
The cost of the project, which commenced in 2019, was Tk3,982crore but was enhanced to Tk4,517 crore at the meeting on Tuesday.
The project, scheduled to end next year, has been extended by another two years.
The planning minister said the premier had directed the Payra Port Authority to come up with a construction plan.
Meanwhile, the prime minister has issued directives on starting river excavation or river bank conservation and carry on the work until it is completed.
The planning minister said that it was often seen that river excavation started, but then stopped in the middle. That brought no benefits and that was why the premier had given such instructions.
The directive came at an approval of a project taken up to protect such high-risk areas as Daulatkhan Municipality and Chakirghat in Bhola from erosion caused by the Meghna River.
The other projects approved by the Ecnec include setting up family nutrition gardens on uncultivated fallow land and backyards, cashew and coffee research, prevention of Halda river erosion, integrated water management at West Gopalganj, modernisation of Sylhet radio station and BTCL internet protocol network development project.